Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: The Madness Underneath - Maureen Johnson

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
Series: Shades of London #2
Genre: YA, supernatural, mystery
Published on February 26, 2013
Published by Putnam
Pages: 290
Read From: 4.20.13 - 4.21.13

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. 
But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades - the city's secret ghost-fighting police - are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Divided. If I saw this book without knowing anything about it, I may not have been inclined to pick it up just because it doesn't really especially ghostly or intriguing. But I do like the title font, and there is something slightly haunting about it when you know what the series is about.

Characters: Rory is a blast. She's got a great sense of humor, is practical for the most part, and not overly emotional. Rory has suffered some series trauma, but rather than losing her temper or breaking down into tears every other sentence, she acts calm in a way that tells you that someone is really upset deep down. If a character is going to be traumatized for over half of a book, I would rather they go around catatonic than emotionally ripped to shreds. Rory also has a great way of always laughing at herself in a very sarcastic manner, which makes for a really great narrator. In fact, her narration is what kept my interested in The Madness Underneath (more on that later). I was sad that Rory's friends weren't in this installment much, and even sadder that we barely got to see Alistair, who has to be on my favorite ghost characters of all time. But we get to know Stephen a bit more, and that was nice. He's controlling and bossy without being a jerk; the sort of guy who makes a good manager and leader. He initially tries to keep Rory out of danger and never forces her to do anything - he always tells her that she has a choice, - but when Rory pushes back, he knows when he's lost the battle, and he gives in, with a few rules, of course.

The Romance: I was a little worried that Rory and Jerome's slight romantic interest would take up more time, but thankfully it didn't. Jerome is hardly in the story, and while I have nothing against his character, I never really "got" Rory's attachment to him. To put it in a more modern sense: their chemistry didn't seem to gel. Unsurprisingly, Rory starts to have feelings for Stephen (I saw that one a mile away), but thank goodness, it doesn't get focused on much at all. And yes, their chemistry does gel a bit more, and that little part of me that can sometimes be a bit of a fangirl gave a squeal of delight when the attachment was made evident. Just so long as it never gets in the way of an adventure, I'm fine with it.

Plot: Time has passed since Rory was stabbed by a ghost imitating Jack the Ripper, and she's moved from London to Bristol to recover from the traumatic experience. Her therapist isn't helping because Rory can't tell her what really happened that night - she signed an official document swearing herself to secrecy. And now Rory has discovered that by touching ghosts, she can vanish them permanently. When the Shades - the secret ghost police of London - arrange for Rory to return to her school, Wexford Academy, to finish out the term, she readily agrees. Maybe with a return to Wexford and its routine, she'll be able to get back to a normal life. But there's surprises waiting for her on her arrival: the owner of a nearby pub has been mysteriously murdered, the Shades are threatened with being shut down now that all of the terminuses are broken, and Rory is far behind in her schoolwork. With the stress of catching up in time to sit for exams, the murders, and now being employed at the ghost polices' only terminus, Rory's emotions are taking one heck of a beating. And things are only to get crazier. When The Madness Underneath began with another creepy murder, I was excited. This was going to be every bit as good as The Name of the Star! Well . . . The majority of the book is spent on Rory, her frayed emotions, her reluctance to "vanish" ghosts, and her difficulty in keeping up with school. The pub owner's murder is wrapped up remarkably easily, and when a second murder happens, it is in no way connected to the first. Things started picking up towards the end (more on that later), but for most of the book I kept waiting for something to happen.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: This is what kept my attention. Rory is a great narrator; she's funny, she has a real flair for the dramatic, and she's just awesome. Her narration kept me from realizing that I was over halfway through the book and nothing of significance had yet occurred.

Content: 1 s-word.

Conclusion: The Madness Underneath ends with a few twists that I both liked and didn't really care for. The first twist with Jane I saw coming - [Spoiler] the moment she proposed to Rory that she should run away, my antennae were up [End spoiler]. I'll give Rory this: she did berate herself afterward for listening to Jane, and once she was in the situation, it didn't take her long to realize that something was off. This was the twist I didn't really care for, because it was obvious, and it was in no way connected to the first murder. So in the end I was like, "Okay, so did the first murder just happen so the Author could get events going? Because it's not really relevant to the rest of the story. At all." The second twist - [Major spoiler] Stephen's death [End major spoiler] - I liked. A lot. I didn't see it coming at all. Initially, it bordered on being lame, but after some thought, I decided that I actually really liked it. Overall, The Madness Underneath wasn't as good as The Name of the Star. But it being the second book in a series, it also worked really well as a gateway book to the third installment, setting characters and events up very nicely. In that respect, I was all right with it being less engaging as Book One. And I still really enjoyed Rory's narration.

Recommended Audience: Guy-and-girl read, fifteen-and-up, great for supernatural mystery fans and just plain mystery fans.

Others in the Shades of London Series:
1)The Name of the Star
2)The Madness Underneath

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